“Valley of the Moon,” by Melanie Gideon
Publisher: Ballantine Books; July 26, 2016
Synopsis: Lux is a single mom struggling to make her way when she discovers an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley. It seems like a place from another time—until she realizes it actually is. Lux must keep one foot in her world, raising her son as well as she can with the odds stacked against her, but every day she is more strongly drawn in by the sweet simplicity of life in Greengage, and by the irresistible connection she feels with a man born decades before her. Soon she finds herself torn between her ties to the modern world—her adored son—and the first place she has ever felt truly at home.
“Valley of the Moon” is the story of a woman named Lux who is a single mom in San Francisco in 1975. She is mostly estranged from her father but maintains a relationship with her mother. Her five-year-old son, Benno, is heading to visit Lux’s parents back east, so Lux decides to go camping at Valley of the Moon. Late one night she gets out of her tent to use the bathroom and sees a thick fog, walks through the fog, and finds herself in another place and time.
Joseph grew up in London and adored his mother who treated everyone as equals and believed that Joseph should try everything in order to find out what tasks and hobbies he likes, as well as, those he doesn’t. Later in life he heads to California, purchases a farm to create his own society of people living and working together, and establishes Greengage. In 1906 there is a horrible earthquake, but nothing is damaged at Greengage and no one is injured. However, a thick ring of fog surrounds Greengage and they quickly learn that if they try to go through the fog, they immediately die.
Thus begins a back-and-forth relationship with Lux being able to visit Greengage when it is a full moon and the fog appears. She can come and go, but the people at Greengage cannot leave. She establishes a close friendship with Joseph, at first struggling to believe one another that it is 1975 to her, and 1906 to Joseph. She works with them while visiting Greengage, trying different jobs and making her contributions,continuing to go back and forth between Joseph’s time and her time for several years. However, there are occasions where she misses her window to return, or time has sped up too much out in “the real world,” causing heart-breaking consequences.
I truly appreciated and enjoyed the uniqueness of “Valley of the Moon.” This novel is so much more than just science fiction or fantasy. Melanie Gideon has captured time-travel, romance, self-discovery, forgiveness, family relationships, and heartache – all in one novel. From the beginning, we learn bits and pieces about Lux’s life and the strain of her relationship with her father. We learn about her challenges as a single mom of a bi-racial son in the 70’s, but also her love and admiration for Benno. Lux manages to expand her career from waitressing to banking over time, but her heart is always at peace while visiting and working at Greengage, and especially spending time with Joseph. I was surprised by the ending, although I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it did leave me with questions. Sometimes throughout the novel, I also got aggravated with all of the comparisons and changes about Lux’s real-time and Joseph’s time at Greengage, but otherwise, I thought it was a beautifully written story. “Valley of the Moon” asserts that love can last across time and space, regardless of how far. Furthermore, it demonstrates that a happy and content life doesn’t always look a certain way, and can triumph despite heart-breaking events in our lives.
Learn more about Melanie Gideon by visiting her web page.
*Disclaimer: I received and ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.